Before we get into the meat of this review, let me caveat this review by saying that I am a bit of an Assassins Creed fanboy. I’ve played & beaten every one of the core games, and was very excited to see this one come out. I’ve done my best here to remain objective, but I may let my geekdom slip a bit. That being said, and without further ado, let’s talk about Assassins Creed Origins.
On Friday afternoon, Harry decided that he was going to whet the appetites of us gamers with a short stream of some gameplay while I was at my day job, which just made me want to leave the office and grab my copy of Assassins Creed Origins right then. However, I wasn’t able to, so I had to pick it up after I left work that evening. I did start loading it up the moment I got home, however. The loading time was a bit longer than I thought it would be (especially with the Gold Edition extras), but it’s a 50 gigabyte game, so that’s to be expected, I suppose. I then spent the remainder of my Friday night and most of Saturday (I do have a social life, I swear) playing this title. Sure, Ubisoft has had their share of issues with some of the previous Assassins Creed games, but this one looks has been a nice step up in quality so far.
Even though I am not playing on either a 4K TV or a PS4 Pro (it sucks being a broke gamer sometimes), this game still impresses with the uptick in visual style and graphical display. Ubisoft really stepped up their game (pun intended), and was able to successfully capture the beauty of a desert landscape.
The story in this chapter of Assassins Creed is a bit slow to get going, and the pacing feels a bit strange. While the main story arc really gives some good exposition as to where this war between the Templar and Assassin factions came from, it sometimes feels tough to stay on track. Sure, lead writer Alain Mercieca really sets up some great encounters with the NPCs, and also succeeds in showing off the emotion in each cutscene between the main characters (with a little help from the MoCap team, obviously). However, I feel like the story starts off a bit vague, and we’re not really given a classic sequence of events to follow very easily.
We do, however, get what fans of the series have been asking for for some time: a return to the modern-day narrative. As it turns out, we’re not just playing as some faceless Abstergo employee anymore. We are now assuming the mantle of 3rd year Abstergo employee named Layla, who’s been using a portable Animus to explore the memories of Bayek after finding his sarcophagus in a cave. What will Layla’s story be going forward? You’ll have to play to find out.
This is another area in which I had some issues for a bit. The control scheme & combat mechanics for Assassins Creed Origins have been almost completely re-vamped from what fans of the franchise have come to know. If you’ve played previous chapters of this series, then there’s a pretty steep learning curve, especially for open combat. That’s not to say that this change is a negative one. It’s just…different, as it definitely took some getting used to. I think I would’ve fared better if there were an actual tutorial for the new controls, instead of the story throwing you directly into combat in the first scene.
The combat is also far more aggressive than the smooth & flowing swordplay in previous games, though. Bayek’s furious style is reminiscent of Adewale’s visceral fighting in the DLC standalone, Freedom Cry (an offshoot of Assassins Creed Black Flag). Bayek is definitely a badass, and doesn’t mess around when it comes to skewering his enemies. He’s the only Assassin I’ve seen actually bludgeon an enemy to death in a cut scene (with an interesting “weapon”, by the way).
Another of the more interesting changes comes in how enemies are tracked. Bayek doesn’t actually have the metaphysical ability that we’ve come to know as ‘Eagle Vision’ yet. He actually has…EAGLE vision. That is to say, the vision of his trusty eagle companion Senu. Sending Senu up into the sky to scout the areas ahead allows you to mark enemies and assassination targets, so that you know their positions. It’s a cool take on the origination of the ability that subsequent assassins possess.
Navigation also feels smoother than before. We still get the amazing climbing and descending structures, running through towns (as well as up & down sand dunes in this chapter), and free running across elevated areas. However, Bayek’s movement seems to be more…punched up, if you will. It just feels more streamlined and slick. You can almost feel the amount of strength & grace in our protagonist.
Then there’s the skill trees. The three skill trees in Assassins Creed Origins allow players to upgrade Bayek’s weapon usage and abilities to suit different play styles. If you like to charge into battle, sword swinging, and not worry about detection, upgrade the Warrior abilities. If you want to use your bow & kill stealthily from afar, put the ability points you earn into the Hunter tree. If you’re more concerned with being able to use all of the cool tools that Bayek can, or getting rare items from shops, then pump up the Seer tree. How you approach these upgrades is completely up to you.
As I would say is the case with just about every Assassins Creed game, Assassins Creed Origins is one that I would probably play over & over again. Sure, the story would be predictable after the first time, but it’s a very pretty game, with a HUGE map (the biggest of any AC game to date), and lots of fun combat & RPG elements.
Also, there are SO MANY side to undertake! The game allows you to individually select which quest you want to track at any given moment, and they’re spread out all over the map. Thankfully, the side quests haven’t gotten too repetitive thus far, so they should keep players engaged for some time.
So let’s sum up, dear readers. If you’ve ever wanted just a bit more variety in an Assassins Creed title, then you’ll love Assassins Creed Origins. There’s some great allusion to various parts of the lore, the customization is fun and intuitive, and the story (once it gets going) is deep and rich. While the game is not without a couple of slight missteps, I still highly recommend playing this one.
4 out of 5 Masked Ones